We thought it might be useful for you to have some information about the types of therapies we use. There are many pathways to achieve an effective outcome in therapy and our team bring a range of training and experience to help you with the challenges you may be facing.
Every psychologist in the team provides sessions that are supportive and reflective, and all therapists work with treatment approaches that are designed to improve your ability to manage symptoms, as well as those designed for more complex issues.
Following the initial assessment, your psychologist will discuss with you the treatment plan that they believe will be best suited to help you to achieve your goals.
Some of the therapeutic approaches we use include:
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an active therapy aimed at understanding and addressing unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that are contributing to difficulty. It is based on the interconnection of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. CBT focuses on current circumstances and on the development of skills that lead to change. Skills can include problem-solving techniques or thought challenging. These skills are accompanied by mini ‘experiments’ to test out new ways of behaving. In some cases it may be useful to understand the origin of how early life experiences have contributed to the development of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. CBT has been well researched and has been shown to be useful for a wide range of problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and weight-loss.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), originally developed by the clinical psychologist, Dr Steven Hayes, is a therapeutic approach that emphasises acceptance of what we can’t control and commitment to living a valued life. ACT is pronounced as the word “act”, which represents the goal of taking effective action that is guided by what is most important to an individual. The two main components of ACT therapy are identification of core values and learning the skills to manage painful emotions, rather than trying to avoid them.
Like many therapeutic approaches, ACT incorporates mindfulness skills as a key component of therapy. In its simplest terms, mindfulness refers to the concept of paying attention to the present moment, including your thoughts, feelings and sensations, with a non-judgemental and curious attitude.
ACT groups mindfulness skills into three categories:
Defusion: Creating distance from unhelpful thoughts, feelings, beliefs or memories
Acceptance: Making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations and allowing them to come and go without a struggle
Contact with the present moment: Engaging fully with the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity
ACT includes formal meditation practice as well as a variety of creative techniques to help people to effectively cope with strong emotions and pursue a valued life.
Further information about ACT can be found at:
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) was developed by professor of psychology, Dr Marsha Linehan. It is a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which incorporates an acceptance of the person as they are while acknowledging that there are some aspects of their life that need to change. The tension between these seemingly opposing forces is known as a ‘dialectic’ and DBT is an attempt to find the middle ground between these two realities. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was traditionally developed to help individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder but can be helpful for a variety of difficulties.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy teaches patients four core groups of skills:
In its most comprehensive form, DBT includes weekly group and individual therapy, as well as telephone support between sessions. Our therapists use skills drawn from DBT in their regular individual sessions and can provide individual therapy to patients who are completing external DBT groups.
Further information about DBT can be found at:
Schema therapy was developed by the psychologist, Dr Jeffrey Young. It combines elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, attachment theory and emotion-focused therapy. The term ‘schema’ refers to an unhelpful, unconscious assumption that develops when core emotional needs are not met in childhood. These schemas are an adaptation to an individual’s family of origin, which means that they start out as essential to the person’s survival but can later become the source of unhelpful patterns of behaviour and relationship difficulties.
Schemas can be broadly grouped into five domains:
Disconnection and Rejection: Includes schemas that make it difficult to develop healthy relationships
Impaired Autonomy and Performance: Includes schemas that make it difficult to develop a strong sense of self and function as a healthy adult in the world
Impaired Limits: Includes schemas that affect self-control and the ability to respect boundaries and limits
Other-Directedness: Includes schemas that lead you to prioritise the needs of others above your own
Over-Vigilance and Inhibition: Includes schemas that prioritise avoiding failure or mistakes through alertness, rules, and disregarding desires or emotions
People can develop schemas in multiple domains and two people can behave very differently even though they may share similar underlying schemas. This is because people develop different coping styles in response to their schemas.
The goals of schema therapy are to identify and heal unhelpful schemas, identify and address coping styles that may be getting in the way of getting one’s emotional needs met, change behaviour patterns that perpetuate unhelpful schemas and learn healthy ways to meet core emotional needs. Your therapist will use a variety of strategies to help you achieve this, including guided imagery, role play, exploration of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with specific schemas, and ‘limited re-parenting’ to help provide a corrective emotional experience.
Further information about Schema Therapy can be found at:
Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy
Internal family systems therapy was developed by Dr Richard Schwartz, a systemic family therapist and academic. As he was working with individuals in therapy, he made the observation that people tended to talk about different parts of themselves, with different opinions, motivations and needs, in much the same way as different family members. While previous therapeutic approaches had also identified parts of the self, Dr Schwartz’s approach added to these conceptualisations by bringing a family systems approach to the relationship between these different parts.
The assumptions of IFS therapy are:
When people have experienced a relatively happy and healthy life, they tend to be self-led by default. However, if a person has experienced trauma or other challenges during their development, their parts can take on more extreme roles, which can take over the leadership of the system at different times.
The overall goal of IFS therapy is to help the patient to understand their internal family system and how their parts relate to one another, identify their ‘self’, and unburden the parts holding traumatic experiences. Once unburdened, these parts can then function as they were originally intended to function, for example as young, playful parts rather than frightened, isolated parts.
Further information about IFS therapy can be found at:
Developed by Dr Klaus Grawe and updated by Professor Pieter Rossouw, Neuropsychotherapy is an approach that seeks to understand and treat mental health issues from the perspective of neurobiological principles, including the interaction between genes, biology and the environment. Neurobiology has helped us to understand many of the challenges posed by mental health conditions, such as why habits are so hard to change and why we can’t think straight when we are very anxious, and Neuropsychotherapy uses these findings to help determine which treatment is likely to be most effective for a given condition.
For example, there is significant evidence that cognitive therapy can result in improvements in mental health and brain functioning, but only if the person’s level of distress is manageable enough for them to be able to access their rational, thinking brain. In states of heighted anxiety, distress or trauma, neuroscience has shown that people lose the ability to access rational thought, and treatment therefore needs to focus on calming the nervous system before cognitive interventions can be useful. Neuroscience also teaches us that ‘neurons that fire together wire together’, which explains why the more we engage in a particular thought pattern or behaviour, the more likely we are to do it again in the future, emphasising the importance of repetition and routine in learning new behaviours.
Neuropsychotherapy can involve interventions from a variety of therapeutic approaches and is applicable to the full range of mental health challenges.
Further information on Neuropsychotherapy can be found at: http://www.mediros.com.au/
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed by psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, and is designed to help people recover from the effects of previous traumatic experiences. The approach is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, also developed by Dr Shapiro, which states that just like our bodies, our minds are built to move towards health, but that sometimes they require some help to complete their natural healing process. EMDR therapy works with the beliefs, thoughts, emotions and body sensations associated with a traumatic event, resulting in neurological shifts that change the way the person feels about the event, their self-concept and their sense of safety in the world. Unlike more cognitive-based treatments, EMDR therapy can be conducted without the need for a detailed description of the traumatic event, which can make it easier for people to work with difficult experiences.
In addition to experiences that are traditionally defined as ‘trauma’, research has demonstrated that EMDR can also be an effective treatment for:
Further information about EMDR can be found at:
Brainspotting was developed by psychotherapist, Dr David Grand. Dr Grand discovered Brainspotting while using EMDR therapy with one of his patients and observing that there seemed to be an eye position that gave the patient better access to the material she was working on. Over time, Dr Grand has developed multiple techniques to allow people to access and process traumatic experiences as well as other difficulties, through focusing mindfully on what he calls “brainspots”.
Like EMDR therapy, Brainspotting is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, which acknowledges our brain and body’s innate ability to heal. It differs from EMDR therapy in that it is a more exploratory process that is driven by the patient’s experiences, rather than a defined protocol. For this reason, Brainspotting is well-suited to pre-verbal, attachment, or complex trauma, which can to be difficult to capture in a specific memory.
In addition to trauma, Brainspotting has also been helpful in treating a variety of other issues such as addictions, anxiety, performance-based issues, anger, procrastination and unhelpful relationship patterns.
Further information about Brainspotting can be found at:
Physical Interventions for Mental Health
There are many therapeutic models that include an understanding of the body and physiology and its role in mental health. We can use this understanding to provide the focal points for intervention in talking therapy. In our practice we do not use physical touch in any form during therapy sessions.
Traumatic activation can include any of the aforementioned symptoms as well as physical sensations related to the traumatic event. It is also common for people who have experienced trauma to experience dissociation, which is a feeling of disconnection from their body and emotions. Dissociation can range from ‘zoning out’ or feeling numb or detached, to feeling completely separate from your body or blacking out. Mental and physical health are inextricably linked. There is considerable evidence that traumatic experiences during childhood result in an increased risk of physical illness later in life, and conversely, people with physical health issues are at higher risk of developing a mental health condition.
One of the most interesting approaches that includes an understanding of the body is Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory. This theory developed from Porges’ experimental work with the vagus nerve. Our previous understanding of the nervous system responses was that it mainly consisted of two opposing parts – the sympathetic fight/flight and the parasympathetic calming part, that is sometimes called freeze/ collapse. Polyvagal theory includes a part to the system- the social engagement system that allows us to connect to others in an energised but calm state. More information about polyvagal theory can be found here https://www.stephenporges.com/articles
Ideas for working with the body in mental health
Given that our bodies experience the symptoms associated with mental health issues, it makes sense that we can also use our bodies to help us regulate our emotions and promote mental health. Some examples of effective ways to do this are:
Exercise: Exercise promotes mental and physical health and has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression. It is fantastic for lifting mood, relieving anxiety, maintaining physical health and encouraging nerve cell connections in the brain, which contributes to good mental health. It can be used as a health maintenance strategy as well as an emotion regulation technique. For example, vigorous exercise such as jogging on the spot or doing star jumps in short bursts can really help with feelings like anger or anxiety as it helps to discharge the chemicals associated with those strong emotions.
Maintain Regular Circadian Rhythm: Our brains and bodies function best when there are predictable sleep, wake, activity and meal times. While there is some individual variation, each of these functions involve its own set of biological processes which function optimally at particular times of day, so it helps to stick to a routine.
Sleep: Even though it can be tempting to try to fit more into your day, it’s really important to prioritise sleep, as sleep is where our brains and bodies heal and regenerate. It is also how experiences and emotions of the day are processed, and how learning occurs, so it’s a very important biological process. Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day and aim for at least 8 hours’ sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure you create a sleep routine which involves reducing physical and emotional stimulation for several hours before bed and eating earlier in the